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How to Conduct Business in French-Speaking Québec

In June 2022, Québec's National Assembly adopted Bill 96 to strengthen the use of the French language. This change in legislation greatly affected all those who live and work in the province, as well as companies outside of Québec who wish to do business there. The bill includes the following measures to promote and protect the use of French, both in the public sphere and within private businesses: 

  1. Official Language Status

Reinforcement of French as the official and common language of the Québec government and its institutions.

  1. Education in French

Measures to strengthen French-language education in primary and secondary schools.

  1. Language in the Workplace

Promotion of French in workplaces, with potential measures to ensure a French-speaking work environment.

  1. Business Communications

Requirements for businesses to use French in advertising, public signs, and commercial documentation.

  1. Francization of Businesses

Measures to encourage and ensure that businesses operate predominantly in French.

  1. Protection of French Culture

Provisions to protect and promote the French language and culture in Québec.

  1. Legal Framework

Legal measures and penalties for non-compliance with language requirements are introduced, and a framework for the enforcement of linguistic regulations is established.

  1. Changes to the Language Charter

Potential amendments to Québec's existing language charter (Charter of the French Language, also known as Bill 101).


What does this mean for companies doing business in Québec?

If your company does not operate in French but you wish to conduct business in Québec, you'll need to work with a language service provider (LSP) to comply with Bill 96. Be sure to tell your LSP that you are working specifically in Québec, as they will need to ensure your content is localized for that region. Since Québec French Canadian is a specific dialect, a translator who is, for example, a native French Canadian speaker from Manitoba would not have the correct dialect. 

The specific requirements from Bill 96 for each aspect of your business are as follows:


Québec businesses with 25 to 49 employees will be subject to the same francization rules as those with 50 to 99 employees. These companies will need to use French at all levels of their companies.

In addition, businesses with 25 to 100 employees are required to form a francization committee if the Office Québécois de la langue française (Office) requires it. For businesses with more than five employees, the Office can impose French language learning services.


There will be a requirement that all public contracts (contracts entered into by the Civil Administration) be drafted exclusively in French, although a version in another language may be attached to the French version in certain circumstances.

With some exceptions, any communication between a business and a Civil Administration agency concerning a permit, subsidy, or any other authorization must be conducted in French.

Commerce/Business Communications

The Bill reinforces businesses' obligation to serve consumers in French when providing goods and services. The default language of communications and service for businesses that offer goods and services to a public other than consumers is French.

Public Signs, Advertising, and Products

For public signs and commercial advertisements, trademarks may still be used in other languages as long as there is no French version registered in Canada and a generic description or slogan in French is used. In the absence of these conditions, a markedly predominant French translation is required on any signage.

When a business name contains expressions from another language, the French language must be prominently displayed on exterior signage.

Product inscriptions must be drafted in French. Inscriptions in other languages may be accompanied by a translation, but they cannot be more prominent or advantageous than those in French. 


What if you don't comply with Bill 96?

Bill 96 further increases previous penalties associated with non-compliance. Fines for legal persons have been increased, as shown in the charts on the bill. In addition, where an offense under Bill 96 continues for more than one day, it constitutes a separate offense for each day it continues. Directors are also presumed to have knowledge of the offense and could incur personal liability accordingly. Prior to issuing any penalties, however, the Office does have a positive obligation to inform an “offending party” of its failure to comply with the Charter or its regulations and provide for an opportunity for the “offending party” to comply.


Final advice

To meet the standards of Bill 96 and avoid alienating Québecers, it is paramount that you have accurate, localized translations. Thus, translation buyers should avoid machine translation because of its low-quality level and inability to translate nuanced language. Also, since there is such a high demand for native Québec translators, they tend to cost more than your average French translator. Be sure to adjust your budget accordingly to allow for the additional cost. Bonne chance!


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